How to build on the heartland's workforce foundation
- Reduced domestic manufacturing, demographic shifts and decreased labor participation have been underlying issues for decades throughout the U.S.
Yes, but: The report, by Bentonville think tank Heartland Forward, outlines how policymakers can benefit from these workforce changes.
- Middle America's lower cost of living can mean a higher quality of life for those who don't want to be in major cities or spend money on formal degrees.
What they found: There are three main opportunities for heartland communities outlined in the report:
Invest in specialized training: To attract investment from industries like semiconductor manufacturers and electric vehicle component makers, the report says communities that spend money to help train the workforce have an edge.
- For example, Tennessee will spend $40 million to build a college of applied technology near a planned $5.6 billion Ford EV battery plant to help prepare a future workforce.
Build pipelines for students: There's continued demand for workers in jobs that require more than a high school diploma, but not a university degree. These jobs pay enough for financial stability and don't typically saddle people with college debt.
- A Heartland report last year identified occupations — such as registered nurses, truck drivers, construction workers — and how states can create pathways to fill those jobs.
Tap into the growing foreign-born population: Industries across America have come to rely more on immigrants to power their workforces. Many have been settling in labor-short, low-cost cities like St. Louis, Missouri, rather than high-cost, deindustrialized states like California, researchers point out.
- A 2021 Heartland Forward report found the overall foreign-born population that lives in the 20-state heartland region has grown from 23.5% in 2010 to 31% in 2019.
The bottom line: The heartland has a historical foundation of producing what America needs, but central states and communities must take deliberate steps to keep building on their record.
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